While talent, hard work, and passion are important characteristics for high performance, business success is increasingly dependent on how employees interact with others. In a team environment, so-called negotiated givers might be the best employees.
In the best-selling book, “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success,” Wharton professor Adam Grant describes three different workplace interaction styles:
Takers see every interaction as a zero-sum game and therefore are always on the lookout for their own interests. Takers are hypercompetitive and rarely empathetic.
Matchers strive to keep the balance of power. If someone does them a favor, matchers will repay it in as analogous a way as they can (no more, no less). If they help someone, matchers expect the same in return.
Givers pay attention to what others need from them and overall group success, rather than their own needs. Givers contribute without expecting anything in return.
Most workplaces are dominated by takers and matchers, with very few givers.
And yet business would be better off with more givers. According to multiple studies, givers are more efficient engineers and higher-grossing salespeople than takers or matchers. Another study found that givers were better at negotiation; not because they got better deals for themselves but rather that they were able to find ways to help the other side which cost them nothing. Grant even claims being a giver is a sign of higher intelligence.
But being a pure giver can have drawbacks.
Consistent with the saying ‘nice guys finish last,’ research has shown that people who only give and don’t ask for favors or help are less productive and successful. No matter how altruistic we are, endless giving without reciprocation can be demoralizing. Eventually we feel like we have no more to give.
To counteract this, Bill Sanders differentiates between passive givers and negotiated givers. Passive givers indiscriminately hand out favors and give to avoid conflicts. In the interest of being a team player, passive givers quickly agree to requests without regard to their own commitments or schedule, and without getting anything in return. During negotiations, passive givers might be described as negotiating against themselves.
On the other hand, negotiated givers are more intentional in their generosity. They support others and are focused on team success but recognize they will likely need help themselves in the future. When offering help, they might simply say something like “I’m sure you’ll return the favor some time in the future.” It’s important not to keep a running tally otherwise you’ve become a matcher – but rather to foster an environment where everyone is more likely to help everyone else.
Negotiated givers might be the best employees because they help everyone get better, including themselves.